Edith CHUKU / Gift BARIKWA
Myths surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccines meant to prevent the virus have made the existence of the threat posed by Coronavirus look more like a mirage than reality.
Till now, most residents of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital still believe that there is nothing like Coronavirus, accusing political office holders of using the means to syphon the country’s treasuries.
There are also those who have refused to take the vaccine which is intended to provide acquired immunity against severe acute respiratory coronavirus.
Aside negligence to get vaccinated, the precautious measures prescribed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has been completely ignored by both the government, banks, churches, business areas, and most saddling, medical centres.
From a TNN survey in some parts of Port Harcourt, it appears that the COVID rules, which includes, ‘no nose mask no entry’ ‘wash your hands’ ‘sanitise your hands’ ‘check your temperature’ among others, are no longer carried out.
In some churches visited, the inscription ‘no nose mask no entry’ was boldly placed at the entrance, but nobody observed it at all.
Some residents who spoke claimed they have overcome the fear of the life threatening virus, adding that they have returned to going about their normal activities with no fear of COVID.
While countries that acquired a large chunk of the vaccine and got over 80 per cent of their residents vaccinated still make face coverings mandatory mostly at large outdoor events due to the COVID-19, Nigeria with less than 20 per cent residents vaccinated, has completely ignored the dos and don’ts.
In this exclusive interview, a public health specialist and public affairs analyst who works at Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, Enugu, Community Medicine Department, Dr. Obasi Chikezie Uzondu, while reacting to the question, if COVID-19 was still a threat said “when you say a threat, it is a threat if it’s uncontrollable, there is nothing you could actually do about it.
“So I don’t think it is a threat in that order now. The only threat, it’s a global threat, because you don’t know what the variance will look like tomorrow, in that case it is a global threat. But as for the Nigeria today, is it a threat? I can assure you that currently, where we have a lot of knowledge, we have got a lot of experts that can manage it, it’s not something you will just get up and say it is a threat, no, I don’t think so.”
Chikezie, who is also a coordinator on COVID-19 issues and management spoke on the reasons most residents no longer wear face mask. According to him, “you know that people react to things based on the threat you mentioned initially, because a lot of people have suffered COVID, a lot of people have gotten some partial immune to it.
“So many have gotten the vaccination and again there is better awareness on symptoms of COVID, people now tend to be laisser-faire about the symptom. It boils down to the perception of threat determines how people actually protect themselves.”
Another medical practitioner with the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, UPTH, Dr. Ifeanyi Oti, said “as I speak now I’m putting on my face mask, here we still observe all the COVID protocols.
“I’m a clinical staff, hardly will you see any clinical staff that doesn’t, or even nonclinical staff, not putting on face mask. So, generally speaking, we still observe the COVID protocols, the thing is that generally in Africa, you will see people who do not wear, the reason that would happen will not be far from your own guess, people have different way of conceiving and seeing things and all that.
“I won’t actually think for those of them who may not be observing it, some of them could be maybe skeptical or they may feel that there is no much deal or probably COVID has being here for some time, so people have their reason why they have not been observing it, but generally speaking as a member of this community here where I work, all of us are still observing COVID rules, those people that are not observing have their personal reservation.”
On his part, a reverend minister in the Assemblies of God Church, the Rev Opara Kingsely Eberechukwu said “from my own angle, I can say that what governs both the godly and ungodly is faith. The bible says anything we do without faith is sin.
“The Christians believe that since it is something that comes from the mouth; droplets, and that without such contact, by faith, they will not have the virus, and trust me, it has been working for them. Their believe in God has been fruitful, so, Christians are living by faith, without which, who knows.
“We do both the spiritual and physical, we apply caution, and obey rules. At the gate, we still have those precautions, we work and live by faith. We emphasise it like we have been doing; like today, I went out wearing nose mask, but faith matters in all of these. So, we emphasize the importance of face mask.”
Pastor Aniefiok Aaron of Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Idang Assembly who also commented said “well, COVID is real. That period, my wife was supposed to go for operation, but because of an unfortunate incident that occurred at the hospital, you know, it was cancelled.
“Whether they say it is politicized or not, some persons died because of this virus, it’s God’s mercy that kept us. I think there is still need for us to be cautious and keep to the COVID rule.”
Mrs Nkiruka Amadi, “my sister leave that thing, which nose mask? COVID na scam ho ha, bye-bye.”
A trader, Mr. Joshua Jedediah said “we really suffered that period, hunger visited every kitchen, except that of the politicians. But did you observe that our politicians made more money during COVID, we don’t want lock down, COVID should just die a natural death. While, I won’t lie, I don’t use nose mask because there is no COVID again.”